According to fossil records and historical data, there were hundreds of bear species many years ago which spread across the world on all continents apart from Australia and Antarctica. Due to extinction and other factors, there are only eight bear species left worldwide which spread in South and North America, Asia and Europe.
Bears are mammals from the family Ursidae and are classified as caniforms. If you are there scratching your head out wondering what these species could be, here is a description of some of them.
Asiatic Black Bear – Ursus thibetanus
Asiatic Black Bears have long, soft, and shaggy black fur with a distinguished crescent-shaped white spot on the chest. They also have long fur around their throat and shoulders and they have relatively large ears.
Whereas adult females weigh between 50-102 kg, adult males weigh from 92-116kg. Asiatic black bears excellently climb trees, and this means that their diet is predominantly herbivorous such as fruits, bees’ nests, berries, grasses, seeds and plants. However, part of their diet is made up of meat which includes small birds, mammals, molluscs, fish, and carcasses.
In autumn, Asiatic black bears feed on nuts which make them fatter. In northern climates, they hibernate for their survival but do not hibernate in southern climates.
Giant Panda – Ailuropoda melanoleuca
Some years ago, giant panda was classified among the raccoons but after years of research and analysis on its genetics, scientists agreed that it should indeed be classified among the bears. The giant panda is without a doubt the most recognizable bear thanks to its large head and striking back with a distinguished white coloration.
Whereas adult females weigh between 70-100 kg, adult males weigh between 8-125 kg. The giant panda is a rare, elusive and endangered bear. They feed on nutritionally poor diet bamboo all their lives, and this makes them consume as much as 20kg every day.
They have a unique anatomical feature that helps them to survive on bamboo; their wrist bones are extended to make an extra digit on their hand that makes it easy for them to tear the bamboo. In addition, they have a thick layer of mucus that offers protection against splinters. Due to habitat loss, Giant Panda has been declining and the remaining few can only be found in the mountain forests of south-central China where bamboo is in abundant.
Polar Bear – Ursus maritimus
The polar bear is probably the most commonly known bear species, and in addition to being the largest terrestrial carnivore, it is the largest of all bear species. Whereas adult females weigh between 200-341 kg, adults males weigh twice as much which is 400-682 kg. Polar bears are almost entirely carnivorous meaning that they do not have natural predators.
They feed on seals but are likely to feed on whales or small walruses. During the summer, polar bears eat vegetation mostly berries and they adapt extraordinarily in the arctic climate. They have a white fur with double functions; one, its translucent nature allows the absorption of sunlight by their black skin, and two, it provides camouflage during hunting. They have paddle-like specialized paws with hairs between the pads adapted for traveling on ice, shoveling snow, and swimming. Given that they live in cold places all their lives, they have dense fur that offers insulation.
Polar bears can be found in the Arctic region and tend to migrate in winter to follow the pack ice, and then recede in summer. In the next forty-five years, there will be a likelihood of polar bear reduction by more than 30%. Due to global climate change, the habitat of the polar bear is under threat and their population experiences slow growth rate because females wait up to three years between breeding cycles.
Brown Bear – Ursus arctos
Brown Bears are spread across Alaska, parts of Washington, Western Canada, Montana and Wyoming. In some parts of Asia and Europe are small individual populations of brown bear and according to experts, a healthy population of brown bears is found in Russia. Brown bears vary in sizes depending on food availability and geographical location. The largest brown bears can be found on the coast of Alaska and Russia, and their size matches that of the polar bear.
Adult males weigh between 136-207 kg while adult females weigh from 93-207 kg. Their diets differ based on their habitat; whereas some are predators of caribou, moose, and elk, others are primarily herbivorous and feed on plants.
Spectacled Bear – Tremarctos ornatus
Scientists refer spectacled bear as Andean bears which is found in the Andes Mountains in South America. They are the last remaining short-faced bear and from the subfamily Tremarctinae, it’s the only surviving. Spectacled bears have distinctive eyes encircled by light markings which are unique in every bear just like the human fingerprint. Adult males weigh between 80-125 kg while the adult female weighs between 64-82 kg. Spectacled bears spend most of their time in trees and eat many species of vegetation such as cactus and bromeliads. They also feed on young calves. Their fate is related to the roles they play in different forms of Andean mythology.
Some cultures honor this bear as a god while in some cultures, it is associated with evil and is destroyed. For instance, farmers in South America kill spectacled bears for many reasons; to sell the meat for profit; some parts have medicinal powers; to give protection for their livestock; and bones are blood are consumed for strength and virility.
Other bear species
- Sloth Bear – Melursus ursinus
- Malayan Sun Bear – Helarctos malayanus
- North American Black Bear – Ursus Americanus
It is evident that there are many bear species spreading across many parts of the world. Sources have it that there were hundred bear species many years ago but due to harsh environmental conditions, food scarcity and other reasons, most of them suffered from extinction. The recent reports suggest that only eight species can be found today, and they are spread across different parts of the world.
The weight and diet of one species are totally different from that of another species and the above description will be of help in clearing your doubts about what’s special about a specific species.